Board files legislation (H.22) to prohibit payment of pensions to teachers convicted of child pornography charges
The Massachusetts retirement statute provides that any public employee convicted of a crime "involving violation of the laws applicable to his office or position" forfeits his or her retirement allowance, and is entitled only to a return of his or her contributions without interest.
The Massachusetts Teachers' Retirement Board believes that in the very rare instance when a teacher is convicted of the possession of child pornography or other sex crimes against children, even if "off duty," that teacher should forfeit his or her pension because such crimes are repugnant to the special trust and duty inherent in the position of teacher.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Judicial Court disagreed with the Board in Garney v. MTRS, 469 Mass. 384 (2014). Although the Court readily acknowledged that teachers are charged with a "special public trust," and that crimes such as possession of child pornography may be sufficient to dismiss a teacher from employment, the Court held that a conviction for the private possession of child pornography did not sufficiently "involve" the position of teacher so as to forfeit a teacher's retirement allowance.
Originally filed by the board in the fall of 2014 (then H. 20) in response to the Garney decision, H.22 is designed to amend the forfeiture statute to make clear that certain offenses, namely possession of child pornography as well as others that require registration as a "sex offender," when committed against children, are so contrary to the role of educating children that convictions of these crimes are indeed "fundamental" to the job of a teacher.
The Board is aware that the vast, vast majority of the teachers in the Commonwealth uphold this special public trust and are no doubt appalled at the notion that a small number do not. Although this affects very few of our members, the Board feels that even one case is unacceptable and, for that reason, refiled this legislation to address this issue. In 2015, this legislation was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Public Service, and received initial approval from the House Steering, Policy and Scheduling Committee.
On April 11, 2017, MTRS Executive Director Erika M. Glaster offered testimony on the bill before the Committee on Public Service.